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Love Letter to a Record: Mal De Mer on Test Subjects’ ‘Study’

Music Feeds’ Love Letter To A Record series asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share stories about how the music they love has influenced their lives. Here, guitarist John Harvey of Perth band Mal de Mer confesses his love for ‘Study’, the 2021 release by New York duo Test Subjects.

Perth band Mal de Mer released their second EP, Sanguine, on Friday, 8th July. Sanguine picks up where 2021’s Gone Fishing left off, combining deftly layered guitars, keys, and upbeat rhythms with Saskia Fleming’s characterful lead vocals. The six members of Mal De Mer share an appetite for a wide range of genres, including elements of pop, funk, indie and jazz in their compositions.

Mal De Mer’s John Harvey on Test Subjects’ ‘Study’

Dear Test Subjects,

Your first foray onto the world stage with the album Study is impeccable. I’m addicted, transfixed and obsessed with your work. I’m your biggest fan in the Southern Hemisphere. When I first heard ‘Television (One of These Days)’, I was intrigued. You caught my attention. As I delved further, hearing ‘Tumbleweed’, I was sold.

Although Study has been out for less than a year, it has completely captivated me. You both – Sam Glock and Melody English – are powerhouse songwriters. Your attention to detail and intriguing melodies draw me in on a conceptual, nostalgic walkthrough of the American dream.

The first song on the album, ‘Boy Next Door’, is a playful interpretation of the classic teen love story – the old cliche of throwing a rock at your crush’s window to get their attention and dreaming of the first moments in a teen romance. I love the drum machine on this track. It is both rhythmic and melodic at the same time. Incredibly inspiring and something I really want to invest into more.

Test Subjects – ‘Boy Next Door’

The listener can hear atmospheric sounds throughout the whole album, signalling the central themes of the songs. ‘Tumbleweed’ starts with the sound of a locomotive, which transitions so perfectly into a 6/4 swing beat that it’s easy to miss. And wow, the lyrics transcribe the story of a “tumbleweed”, a metaphor for a lonesome drifter breezing through towns and being beckoned by a lover to “tumble to me”.

You did a really cool thing after releasing the album by making the stems available for anyone to use. I had so much fun remixing ‘Tumbleweed’ and making it into a country house song. I feel like everyone should make their stems available. It’s such an inviting and interesting way to show your listeners a glimpse into your songwriting process.

I had so much fun listening through your whole album. There are so many nods to American media culture, and all done so tastefully. I highly recommend everyone listen to this album. Every song is carefully crafted. This album, I believe, will shape my production and writing identity forever and I eagerly await what you have in store for us next.

  • Love,
  • John

Mal De Mer – ‘Mirage’

Further Reading

Mal De Mer’s ‘Mirage’ Is A Self-Assured Farewell To A Bad Relationship

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